Champion Flames Out Long before the Finish Line
- Ryan Duncan
- 2017 18 May
Despite a touching story of redemption, Champion is frequently interrupted by a bloated soundtrack which robs the film of any emotional reward. The result is a movie that can barely shift out of neutral, much less take viewers on a winning ride. 2 out of 5.
For years, Sean Weathers (Andrew Cheney) has been a king in the supercharged world of dirt track racing. Success has made him arrogant, and it doesn't take long before a single, selfish mistake causes him to lose everything he holds dear. Now Sean must fight to reclaim his family, while another man struggles to forgive amidst terrible grief. When these two broken souls are unexpectedly brought together, they'll discover that God has a plan for them, even in their failures. For it is only through forgiveness that any of us truly find victory.
Champion actually has several moments of genuine quality. When a dejected Sean returns to the empty speedway for a few wistful moments of faded glory, the emotion is palpable. A small twist towards the end also helps drive home the message of redemption and grace, giving a satisfying conclusion to a complicated story. The production value and cinematography deserve a nod of approval as well. It's clear the creators of Champion wanted their movie to look its best and they certainly succeeded in that respect.
Sadly, a lot. For starters, Champion has billed itself as a racing movie, which it isn't. The speedway setting is largely for show and disappears after ten minutes, so anyone hoping for NASCAR-like thrills will be disappointed. The massive two-hour runtime doesn't help matters either. Then there is the dialogue, which feels unnatural even at the best moments. An argument between Sean and his manager is delivered so poorly it's barely believable, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I've heard someone say "Oh hush" in real life.
Far and away though, the worst aspect of Champion is the music. The entire film is permeated by an infuriating soundtrack that doesn't just interrupt key scenes, it's clearly trying to emotionally manipulate the audience. Rather than allowing the story stand on its own, loud music will blare at any given time as if to signal right now viewers should be feeling sad, now happy, etc. One particularly moving scene, where a bereaved father is selling his family cabin, is utterly destroyed by a horribly peppy tune inflicted on the viewers. If silence is golden, then Champion is Exhibit A.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
Champion is a very Christian movie and is not shy about admitting that fact. Nearly every character is a professed believer, and scenes of prayer, Scripture reading and Sunday worship are common. Spiritual hymns frequently find their way into the soundtrack, and Jesus is routinely mentioned in conversations. Sean's daughter Gracie (Faith Renee Kennedy) briefly stays with a kind, Christian family (Side Note: as someone who has worked on the opposite side of Social Services, the depiction of foster care as a large, happy house where kids get soda for dinner left me troubled, but I'll take it as an encouragement for more Christian families to get involved in fostering).
Above all, Champion is a story about forgiveness and repentance. Viewers are reminded that we are all sinners, and that because God forgave us, we should forgive in turn.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material
- Language/Profanity: Maybe one or two odd curses, but otherwise clean.
- Sexuality/Nudity: A bit of playful flirting between two mechanics; Sean says that his wife left him; two men are briefly shown shirtless while swimming.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: A car crash is seen and a character dies off-screen; some verbal arguments; Sean talks about having an abusive father; a story about getting shot by a mugger, followed by a video of physical therapy.
Drugs/Alcohol: A few characters casually drink beer; Sean gets addicted to painkillers, and a man is asks if someone is on drugs.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Christians; families with kids 8 and older; people looking for a clean, inspirational story; people who like redemption themes.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Racing fans; older teens; people looking for deeper stories; music devotees.
Champion, directed by Judd Brannon, opens in theaters May 19, 2017. It runs 116 minutes and stars Gary Graham, Andrew Cheney, Faith Renee Kennedy, and Cameron Arnett. Watch the trailer for Champion here.
Ryan Duncan is Entertainment Editor for Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: May 18, 2017
Image courtesy: ©BrannonPictures